A little bit of sunshine – 28 March 2020

Bright sunshine to wake up to, but it disappeared fairly quickly.

We didn’t have anywhere to go today. We had food for dinner and for lunch and anyway, there was nowhere that would welcome us. That’s one of the problems of this Coronavirus problem. Everywhere is closed. Heavens, even the children’s play parks are locked and bolted. Not that it makes any difference to the children, their mums and dads just lift them over the metre high fence and off they go to play on the swings and roundabouts. How they get them out and back home again is a different problem. We weren’t going to the play park today. The furthest Scamp went was into he front garden to repair the damage the cat had done to her planting box yesterday. It’s now covered with plant pots which should discourage the incontinent feline.

After lunch and after a consultation on what we’d have for dinner, I went out with the camera and the Benbo tripod slung over my shoulder on a strap that was originally for the Manfrotto tripod, but with a bit of adaptation suggested by Scamp worked well on the Benbo too. As has been the case these days, St Mo’s was buzzing, mainly with mums pushing prams. Social distancing is becoming more and more difficult with the number of folk wanting to use my park. I was heading into the woods where prams don’t go, so I would be safe from contamination. I was looking for the fungus with the oyster shell patterns I’d seen last week, but I didn’t find it. After searching through my images tonight I think I’ve worked out two places it could be, but that was no use to me in the trees. What I did find was today’s PoD which is three little sycamore seedlings growing in a cleft in a sycamore tree. I also found this strange black fungus which I think may be Black Tree Ear fungus so called because it is black, it grows on trees and it looks like an ear. I’m pretty sure it’s the fungus we bought and cooked from a Chinese supermarket last year. As I recall it looked dodge and tasted just OK.

Came home to find that Scamp had been baking. Not one, but two cakes. We’ve sampled both and they passed inspection, especially the sultana cake with fruit soaked in Calvados. Dinner was fish ’n’ chips, home made because I didn’t fancy standing outside the chip shop waiting for my order to be called. Normally I wouldn’t mind, but there was a cold east wind today. Speaking of which, it was a lovely morning with bright sunshine. In the afternoon when I went out with the camera, it clouded over. When I came back, blue sky reappeared and the sun shone again. What am I doing wrong?

Splashed some oil paint on my painting board today and created another masterpiece. It’ll be tacky by tomorrow, so it should take another layer of paint. Quite like oil paint, much nicer to work with than acrylic. Seems to be easier to get bright colours with it.

No plans for tomorrow, but we may need some fresh veg, so a walk to the shops may be in order.

It was a dull day – 27 March 2020

Not really a day for doing much. It started cold and dull and that theme extended through the day.

What we did do was go for a walk. Across to St Mo’s and round the pond once. Took some photos of what I think were rasp flowers, wild rasps. Not really much interest in them though, so the photos didn’t work very well. That’s usually the way of things when your heart isn’t in the subject, then you’re really only treading water. Not quite two weeks in and I’m becoming jaded. I took a couple of shots of a woman sitting with her dog on a bench at St Mo’s. Seemed to sum up Self Isolation. More like self enforced isolation. That became PoD.

Walked home and did a bit of watercolour painting. Again, I wasn’t really interested and it showed in the painting. Tomorrow I’ll slap some colour on the drab acrylic painting I tried yesterday and see if that lifts my spirits.

What I did do was clean the bathroom and ungunge the trap in the shower. I didn’t think it was really necessary until I started and then I discovered it really, really was necessary. Latex gloves are great things for using when you’re cleaning the bathroom, just incase you’ve not noticed, or not cleaned a bathroom recently. While I was gainfully employed with this work, Scamp was cleaning out her fancy steam iron. We were shocked at the amount of what looked like crystals in the tank. I presume these are left behind after the steam has been generated. It just shows that it’s not just pure H20 that’s coming through the tap. Scary. With the boiler cleaned out she was ready to do the ironing proper.

That was about it for the day. Blue Dragon Ramen Noodles with Chicken for dinner. It was a hit and a miss. I voted Hit, and not just because I made it. Scamp didn’t like the noodles, so it was a miss from her. May try another of their offerings, the next time I go for the long wait at Tesco.

Discovered that a cat had been using Scamp’s sweet pea box as a toilet, so today I sprinkled a fairly heavy dose of ground white pepper on the compost.  If you see a cat sneezing a lot, you’ll know where it came from.  Sorry Hazy, but it needs to be told how to behave properly.

No plans for tomorrow. Where can we go anyway? Enforced isolation is becoming boring.  However, it’s worse for some.  ‘Poor’ Boris has tested positive for Covid 19.  Is this to garner sympathy, or to show that he’s suffering with his plebs people?  If it’s good enough for Prince Chic, it’s good enough for Boris.  What a pair.

With the Trolley Dollies – 26 March 2020

Scamp’s prescription was ready to collect. An excuse for us to go for a drive as far as the chemist and Tesco.  Scamp offered to drive and I accepted.

When we got there she went to the pharmacy queue and I went to the Tesco queue, agreeing to meet at the car. Both queues were equally long, in fact mine was probably longer, but more efficiently managed. Everyone was being careful to keep the required 2m from the person in front. It wasn’t until I was in the queue that I realised I didn’t have any bags with me, neither did I have a hat or gloves. The bags would be in the car, but not my car, Scamp’s. I could have walked along and borrowed her car keys, got the bags and taken the keys back, but when I looked behind me, the queue was even longer than when I’d joined it. So I just pulled up my hood, plugged in some music from my phone and waited, occasionally shuffling along while maintaining that 2m distance. Then I noticed everyone else, apart from me, seemed to have a trolley. I’d missed a trick there too. Not to worry, there wouldn’t be much in the store and I had only a small shopping list.

Finally got into the store, grabbed a basket and sanitised it. Compulsory it seemed. First check the pasta shelves. Glory be, they had pasta. Loads of it. Grab a bag, maybe two? No, that’s greedy, one will do. Looked behind and they had rice too! Loads of it in a couple of versions. Rice was on my mental list, so two bags of Basmati. Now, they wouldn’t have toilet rolls, would they. THEY HAD TOILET ROLLS!!! I took just one pack of nine rolls, don’t want to look like a stockpiler. Eager to get out of the store with my ill gotten gains, I forgot to get a tin of tomatoes or beans to put in the Food Bank box. Just get these essentials, and also some flowers for Scamp and go.

Then I realised I didn’t have the car key. Went looking for Scamp but I couldn’t see her in the queue. Looked inside and there was the red wooly hat. There aren’t two hats like that in the world. Walked back to the car and waited. Eventually she arrived carrying a bit bottle of medicine. We drove home and I unloaded my goodies. Oh, the excitement of unpacking, not only macaroni and rice, but also Toilet Rolls. How our lives have changed in a mere three weeks.

Tesco seem to be on top of the rationing and their systems are beginning to respond to the excessive demands of the greedy few. It’s good to see that at least someone is taking charge of things.

Toyed with the idea of going out to St Mo’s for a walk and to grab a photo, but PoD had already been taken with today’s shot I’d got of the of trolley dollies queueing outside Tesco. Instead of walking and photographing, I pinned a piece of Galleria Acrylic quality paper to my drawing board, mounted the board on my easel and proceeded to slap some acrylic paint on it in a representation of a landscape I shot at the start of January, when the world was still young. Tomorrow, when it’s dry I may slap some oil paint on top in a method recommended by the portrait artists of the year hopefuls. It won’t be a beautiful picture (it might), but it will make me think of other things than self isolating and social distancing.

While I was painting, Scamp was writing out the moves for seven sequence dances, one for every day of the week. That’s her substitute for painting. Whatever get you through the day. Spoke to my cousin Margaret in Lesmahagow tonight. She and Billy are also self isolating, but she said we’d all meet up again, probably next year “when this has all blown by”. That will be something else to look forward to.

At 8pm, on the dot the clapping started from somewhere in our square.  I think it was  the bloke who lives along the road at the corner, Wullie.  I’d forgotten that someone had decided we should all go outside at 8pm and applaud the nurses, doctors and in fact anyone in the NHS who works so hard to keep us safe and healthy.  So that’s what we did, we added our applause to the folk that were making their thanks heard.  There were even some fireworks too.  It was a sign of solidarity I suppose.

Tomorrow, beside a possible day in the art room, we may do a bit of dancing.

Sunny Coatbrig’ – 21 March 2020

Any place as grimly industrial as Coatbridge, that has an area called Sunnyside, obviously has a sense of dark humour.

Today we went to the leafier part of Coatbridge (It will always be Coatbrig’ to me because that’s what my dad called it). We drove out to Drumpellier which has a small loch and an imaginatively designed play park based around a Crannog. There are buoys in the loch that mark out the original ‘real’ crannog that was home to Iron Age families. Some Iron Age families still live in Coatbrig’ I think.

Today we weren’t interested in the history and pre-history of Coatbrig’, we were more interested in a walk round the loch in the fresh air. Contrary to our usual route, we took the anti-clockwise path, walking against the usual flow of prams, bikes and weans on those strange three wheeled scooter things that the weans move with a skiing motion. They always looked awkward to me and the weans seemed to be having a hard time getting them to go where they wanted. It didn’t take us long to get round the loch and there wasn’t all that much to see I’m afraid. The camera stayed quite happily in its bag for the whole circuit. The visitor centre and tea shop was firmly locked and bolted shut as per Boris’s instructions, so there was nothing for it but to drive back home again. Of course we could have turned around and unwound ourselves by walking round again by the clockwise route, but there would still have been very little to tempt the photographer in me and we’d still have to find a way past the skiing tricycle owners. Nah, we just went home for lunch.

Before we’d gone out we were talking to the couple in the pensioner’s house next to us and again they were offering to bring us back any messages we needed. I think they’re both younger than us, but it is strange to be “the old people”. I haven’t seen myself as old until this year. Yes I refer to Colin, Fred, Val and me as The Auld Guys, but that’s tongue in cheek. To think of myself as ‘old’ is uncomfortable. However, it was kind of them to think of us.

After that, I went for a walk in St Mo’s and found my old adversary Mr Grey, or at least one of his family stalking frogs, I think, in St Mo’s pond. While he stalked, I stalked him and got a few shots before he took off on those enormous wings and flew off. I was ready for him though. I’d set the camera to motor drive (Slow) and managed to grab a few images as he glided past on the tree line. My favourite, and therefore PoD was what you see here and only shows his head after I made a hash of panning. It’s always been difficult to pan and take multiple shots on an SLR. With a DSLR it’s no different. The only camera to allow you to see what you’re taking without interruption is a rangefinder. There are very few digital rangefinder cameras and the ones there are, are above my budget. So for me it’s press the button and hope for the best. I may try to pan with the shutter set to electronic some time. I believe that works. Next time I’ve got decent light and a suitably slow flying heron I’ll test out the theory.

Dinner tonight was paella and Scamp suggested that we reduce the quantity to reduce the waste. It should have been easy, but I don’t think I got the amount of stock right. Needs more testing. Everything needs testing, it seems.

Tomorrow we are hoping to go out walking in the fresh air again, probably in the afternoon. Weather looks much like today, that is cold and a bit dull, but we’ll hope for better.

Another beautiful Spring day – 20 March 2020

Apparently today was the Spring Equinox, something about the sun crossing the equator.

I don’t know if the sun was actually crossing the equator today, but we definitely saw if for a lot of the afternoon. We’d decided to go for a walk again today. A much longer walk than yesterday, about 5 miles according to my Fitbit. We were walking along the Forth & Clyde Canal from Auchinstarry Quarry to Twechar and back. Before we left Auchinstarry I grabbed a shot of two roped up rock climbers having a wee discussion of the best way to climb the rock. One in the bag.We started out on our walk with the big Bergy coats on, Scarves, Wooly Hats and Scamp even had her gloves on. I was a rock cake and kept my gloves and my hands in my jacket pockets. Halfway along the canal, the jackets were zipped down, then the scarves, gloves and wooly bunnets were pocketed away and we began to feel the heat of the sun. We some folk who had gone further and were wearing shorts, but that’s just taking things too far. It might be that Spring is just around the corner, but that was a cold wind blowing from the east. One step at a time.

When we turned at Twechar and headed face forward into that eastern breeze, the bunnets were back on and the jackets were zipped up again. Got today’s PoD just outside Twechar as an eight shot panorama created in Lightroom, then cleaned up in ON1 2019. Quite pleased with it, it showed what the light was like today. We passed a few hardy folk out walking and cycling, and even a few jogging. All of them keeping the approved 2m distance from us, just to be sure.

On the way back to the car we discussed food options for the next few days and decided another visit to the butchers was in order. With that in mind we drove to Muirhead and then split up. Scamp to check out the Co-op and me to get some meat and fish it there was any fish. There was a queue outside the butchers, and I groaned. It was Friday and it’s usually busy on Fridays, but actually this was a H&S queue, all to do with Covid 19. People were asked to wait outside and were called into the shop to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Once in I had to sanitise my hands with an alcohol gel. Perfectly sensible really in these strange days. I was looking for some more Thai Chicken Stir-Fry, but there were no chickens from any geographical location in a stir-fry sauce. Got some beef stir-fry instead. Also got some fish for Scamp and best of all, two bags of pasta. No pasta in Tesco, nor as it turned out in the Co-op, but there was some in the butchers! Strange days indeed. When we got back home, the girl next door, Angela’s daughter Lucy, came out to say that she was giving her mum a lift to her work in Asda in the mornings and if we needed anything, just to give her a list. I thought that was very kind of her and told her so. I also said that although we were fine at the moment, I’d keep her offer in mind.

With that, our exercise for the day was done. Lunch was (Just) soup and a late supper was a pizza.

The big Covid 19 announcement of the day, apart from having to queue outside the butchers and then use hand sanitiser, was that all clubs, pubs and restaurants would be closed from tonight until the foreseeable future. That also made sense to me and was entirely predictable.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk again in a different place and a different direction, no doubt. Where is not yet decided, but we will be taking a flask and ’pieces’.

Lockdown – 16 March 2020

It was a day of narrowing opportunities.

Planned for coffee with the auld guys. First Val called off, with a bad cough (Not Coronavirus he said). Then Colin said he was “Socially integrating with greenhouses, garden and garage”. In other words, too busy. Fred, the final invitee, asked if the coffee shop would even be open. I hadn’t thought of that possibility. That’s when I decided to cancel the whole daft idea.

Gems met and decided that they weren’t taking the risk of catching the virus by singing at Abronhill church. With that being so, Scamp made the decision to cancel practises for the foreseeable future. I know it was a hard decision to take, but when Scamp decides on something, it stays decided. She says she’ll phone the person in charge of the church group tomorrow and explain her decision.

I went to the butchers while Gems were in session. Just for some stew and sausages. I got some Thai Chicken Stir-fry too, that’s for tomorrow’s dinner. Saw nothing worth photographing while I was out. I went up to my parking place at the back of Fannyside and watched the rain float in from the west and gradually swallow up the landscape. Saw a hill catching the sun away to the east and still haven’t quite decided what it is. I thought it might be Berwick Law, but that seems unlikely now. Must take my laptop with me the next time and try to pinpoint it. Just for something to do.

Went dancing at night in Kirsty’s class. Tidied up the original waltz routine and almost go the new waltz routine working, but not quite. To Scamp’s delight we did the Sally Ann Cha-Cha to “Fireball!” I think that might be our last class for a while.

Boris’s doom-laden statement at 5.30pm today was him setting out what life is going to be like for the next 12 weeks and it’s not good. It is, however slightly more flexible than that announced on Sunday with all persons over 70 confined to the four walls of their house for 16 weeks. At least, now, we are allowed out for a walk, as long as we stay a good distance from anyone else. We may take them up on that.

Today’s PoD was captured in the rain as we left the dance class. It’s entitled “Cumbernauld. Where the streets are paved with gold.”

Tomorrow, we may go for a walk.

Lunch at The Cotton House – 7 March 2020

That’s what I was looking forward to.

A lazy morning watching the rain and, for me, testing out the sketch book I got yesterday. The rain just kept coming and the sketch book didn’t hold a wash very well, but did respond nicely to pencil, so that was ok.

Drove through the rain and darkening skies to The Cotton House. The “The” appears to be important, no just Cotton House. The definite article seems to be important here, possibly because it is the only definite article in the English language. There, you probably didn’t know that and now you do. You’ve learned something today.

Scamp had Thai Spring Rolls followed by Chicken Chow Mein. For me it was Chicken Noodle Soup followed by Chicken Green Pepper in Black Bean Sauce with Noodles. Both were deemed excellent, but that’s what you expect at TCH. Inside it’s gone through some changes, but the food is just as good as it always was. That’s why we booked a table today, because you just have to on a Saturday. Scamp’s coffee and my Chinese tea afterwards were disappointing, but I suppose some corners have to be cut to keep the price of lunch to an acceptable level. I’ll forgive them.

After that we drove home via Tesco for essentials like milk and stuff for tomorrow’s dinner. Oh yes, and toilet rolls. Because we need them. Nothing to do with the dreaded Coronavirus or Covid 19, whichever you prefer. It seems that shelves in supermarkets across the world are becoming depleted and the most sought after articles are toilet rolls. That’s a load of shite if you ask me. Come on, you expected that, didn’t you?

Scamp was selling her old keyboard and asking a ridiculously small amount of money, but it was her keyboard to sell (don’t panic people, it’s not the Clavinova) and the woman arrived this afternoon to buy it. I think it was much bigger and more complicated than she realised. She seemed overwhelmed by it, but money crossed hands and there’s more space now in the front bedroom.

I’d thought of going out for a walk in St Mo’s today when we got back from lunch, but the light was failing even at about 4pm, so I gave up on that. We’ve had almost a week of dry shiny weather and we’ve forgotten just how dull it can get by 4 o’clock. Today reminded us. With that in mind I took a bit of broccoli, a bag of yellowing parsley, a few mushrooms and a bag of coffee beans upstairs and arranged them, tastefully on an A3 piece of cartridge paper and photographed them. Then, in ON1, I added a bit of grassy field to the foreground. Imported the resulting image into Luminar 4 and added one of my skies, but missed a bit of it and that bit rankled with me, so … I exported the image to an old version of Photoshop, cut out that bit and then pasted a new bit in behind the hole then exported the image back into Lightroom. Cropped it, adjusted the levels and that’s what you see up at the top. Photography took about 15 minutes. Post-processing took a couple of hours. That’s what digital photography is all about. A PoD was created.

On Netflix we watched three episodes of a documentary about the 2019 F1 GPs from the viewpoint of the smaller teams, not the big three. Really interesting. Also watched another video about an actor chef being tutored by a real chef. How to make an omelette, followed by how to cook a steak. A massive steak, but it was set in America where they don’t do things by half.

Tomorrow we aren’t going dancing, but we may be practising. More rain forecast.

A day in the Toon – 6 March 2020

Scamp suggested it and I agreed. A day in Glasgow. No driving, no dancing, just a day in the Toon. Sounds good to me too.

Walked over to Condorrat and got the eXpress bus to Glasgow. Coffee in Nero first then a walk through JL. Visited the ‘toy shop’ on the top floor, just to see if there were any bargains on show, but of course, there weren’t. Didn’t really expect any, but I’m not in the market for bargains anyway, so I wasn’t really bothered.

The new Aaronovitch book (with luminous cover!) from Waterstones and the prospect of a pair of Wranglers in TJ Hughes took us along Argyle Street. The book was bought, but the jeans weren’t. Mainly due to the lack of ability in TJ’s staff to assess the size of the queue and stop changing tags on stock and man (should that be ‘person’) the tills instead. Nope, Job Demarcation demands that I stay at the job I was given and not deviate from said job until sanctioned by a more senior member of staff Or in other words “I was only obeying orders”. Left the jeans back on the shelf and walked out. How do these stores survive? Especially when others like JL are sinking?

In Paesano, a Number 3 pizza (anchovy, olive, capers, mozzarella, sugo and EVOO) for me and a Number 1 pizza (Sugo, rocket, No garlic, No cheese) for Scamp with two glasses of house red saved the day and brought a little bit of Italian sunshine to Glasgow.

Walked back to the bus station via Cass Art for black watercolour paint and a cheap sketch pad then caught another eXpress bus back to Condorrat. Walked home with smiles on our faces. It was a good day.

PoD was some folk heading up Bucky Street for the bus home after ‘Making Glasgow’!

Scamp made Chicken Goujons for supper, washed down with another glass of red wine.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to be fed at Cotton House, with the prospect of a walk afterwards.

Dancing in Paisley – 5 March 2020

Not exactly the place that springs to mind when you think of dancing.

Scamp was out early this morning to check that Isobel was all right after her first night back home after she got here new knee. She said that the patient hadn’t realised just how painful the recuperation would be, but that she was not going to be beaten by something as simple as a replacement knee.

After lunch we changed into dancing clothes, because although these tea dances are informal, there seems to be a standard of dress that it’s as well not to drop below. Today we were in Paisley, far side of Paisley really. I put my trust in the sat nav, because I don’t know that area of the central belt at all. It seemed to know where it was going and I didn’t, so I was happy to let it direct me. I usually drive by the map, but Paisley is an old town where the road intersections are not as clear cut as they are in places like Glasgow. With only one missed turning, we arrived at the community centre where our tea dance was waiting for us.

We got invited to sit with another couple and soon the room was beginning to fill up. Many of the faces were becoming known to us, plus, of course we already knew Stewart and Jane who were running the dance. We started off with a waltz and managed to get round the floor without too many slip ups. We danced quite a few sequence dances, something I wouldn’t have admitted to a year ago. Sat and talked to a couple we were on nodding acquaintance with from salsa. Overall, it was a good day, plus Jane’s homemade dumpling made the tea much tastier. The only fly in the ointment was the traffic on the way home. Basically it was a crawl from the community centre all the way to the motorway. A few miles of clear road then the usual crawl through Glasgow city centre.

Scamp wanted a new plant, a Skimmia she’d seen at the garden centre we were at yesterday, so we stopped there on the way home. I’d spotted a nice beech tree there and thought it might make a decent PoD. It looked ok through the viewfinder, but the final result wasn’t all that it could have been. Must try harder.

Fish ’n’ chips from the chip shop for dinner tonight and it was greasy, hot and delicious.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow. With the warning from the Scottish government that the Coronavirus will escalate quickly now, we may have to look for hand sanitiser and some face masks first 😉

Last Dance in The Weavers – 4 March 2020

Thankfully the last dance in that pokey little room, but we beat the corners.

First we got a phone call from Isobel to say that she was indeed getting out today. Although she’d get transport from the ward to the car, she would need a wheelchair to get from the car to the house, because the hospital wouldn’t load us a chair. Absolute nonsense, but totally in keeping with expected NLC policy. Scamp was not to be fazed by this problem and phoned one of the Gems singers and an hour later we had a wheelchair in the back of the Juke. You don’t realise just how much room a folded up wheelchair takes up in a car. I see the problem now Hazy.

By the time we’d worked out how to transport Scamp, Isobel, me and the wheelchair from the hospital to Cumbersheugh, Isobel had phoned to say she’d been told she was going to get hospital transport. Because she had more than one step up to her door and also she only had one handrail, she needed an ambulance person to get her safely into the house. One problem solved, but now we had to return the wheelchair and also return our life to what sometimes amounts to “Normal”. We went to lunch.

Lunch was in Craigend Nursery which used to be a decent sized plant nursery with a small tearoom bolted on. Now it’s very large tearoom with a nursery bolted on almost as an afterthought. Lunch was a beef burger and chips and salad and a dollop of ‘coleslaw’ that looked like a dog had been sick on my slate (no plates, just slates. Retro chic). Scamp had a very greasy looking Mac ’n’ Cheese. I don’t think we’ll be rushing back there.

Drove back and Scamp went to offload the wheelchair while I went to visit the ducks in St Mo’s. I also walked to the shops to try to get lemongrass for tonight’s dinner. Met an old friend of ours from salsa. Haven’t seen her for years, five years at least, according to her. How time flies. Didn’t get the lemongrass, but I did get today’s PoD which looks as if it’s been taken with flash, but it was just low afternoon light. A lucky shot.

Tonight we were dancing for the final time in The Weavers. I won’t be sad to leave that horrible room with its strange angles. What we did do was produce a decent foxtrot and another ‘work in progress’ quickstep. After a long explanation of how to dance in any shape of room, we even managed to remove the corners of the room and turn them into gentle curves, just by altering stride length and not dancing in entirely straight lines. It worked!

G&Ts tonight to remove the rough edges of an awkward day. Much like The Dukes of Hazzard song “Staightenin’ the curves Flattenin’ the hills …”. Exactly like tonight’s dancing.

Tomorrow more dancing in the afternoon hopefully. In a proper room this time.